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(Practically) Picture Perfect: 2002 Dodge 2500 4x4

Posted in Features on August 1, 2012
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In a world of ugly, stressful SoCal commutes, Dave Perkins has it pretty sweet. “I live six miles from work,” he says. It’s obvious he’s stoked, but stops short of boasting. Dave works as a truck driver for a major motion picture studio. “One of my co-workers commutes all the way from Dana Point. It’s about sixty miles each way. The money is pretty good, so it’s worth it for him, but I’m glad I have a short commute.”

Even if he had a long haul to work, there’s little doubt Dave would still be stoked. His Cummins-powered 2002 Dodge 2500 4x4 is adept at a variety of tasks, including pavement duty. Bought new from the dealer lot, the 2500 is long paid off and has since been treated to a host of smart aftermarket upgrades that make it what it is today.

While pavement prowess is important, it’s off-road ability that holds sway in these pages. Dave’s Dodge delivers here, too, with a DT Profab suspension kit up front and a pair of Atlas leaf packs out back. Each corner is damped by an F-O-A shock and a matching F-O-A hydraulic bumpstop. The tire-and-wheel combo is straight off of the battlefield: genuine H-1 Hummer rolling stock.

Primo suspension and battle-tested wheels don’t matter much if the motivation’s not there. The Dodge delivers here, too, thanks to a 24-valve Cummins inline six under the hood. The Cummins engine motivates the Dodge chassis so well that Dave left the ring and pinion sets stock, even with the oversized, heavy 37-inch Goodyear MT/R tires at each corner.

The combination of reliability, horsepower, and torque makes the Cummins inline six destined for hardworking trucks that have a good chassis and a subpar powerplant: Cummins swaps are popular. You’ve heard of, right? A swap wasn’t necessary in this case, as the 24-valve Cummins was under the Dodge’s hood right from the beginning, and some key aftermarket upgrades made it that much better. Add-ons include an Edge Juice With Attitude programmer, a Smarty programmer, an aFe Bladerunner intake manifold, an AEM air filter system, a silicon hose kit from Mr. Bob’s, and an MBRP four-inch exhaust system. Street or dirt, this is one Dodge that’s hard to catch.

The age of building a fullsize pickup truck just for commuting and curb appeal seems to be fading. Now more than ever, people buy and build trucks because they’re going to use them. So how does Dave use his? It’s the machine by which he introduces his two young sons, Elijah and David, to the outdoors. When the Perkins trio isn’t inside the cab, they’re behind helmets and handlebars. Dave and Elijah both ride dirt bikes, while David prefers a quad. Favorite spots include Lucerne Valley, Rowher Flat, and “pretty much all of the Mojave desert.”

With a well-built truck, a short commute to a job that pays well, and two sons to share the outdoors with, things seem picture perfect. At the same time, calling something perfect seems a little dangerous, akin to calling the Titanic “unsinkable.” In the spirit of the motion picture industry, and to avoid a jinx, it seems better to say “Dave, we hope you break a leg.” It’s practically picture perfect.

DT Profab’s front suspension system was also added at SMP and represents a major change in the chassis and brings several upgrades to the table in one fell swoop. The shorty factory four-link arms are deleted in favor of a pair of lengthy radius arms which have an I-beam cross section. The extended length yields a smoother ride and keeps geometry from changing radically as the suspension cycles up and down.

Just like the engine, the stock axles are so good there’s no need for swapping. The front is a Dana 60 and the rear is a Dana 70. DT Profab’s replacement track bar and track bar bracket work in concert with a dropped pitman arm, dropped sway bar, and replacement sway bar end links for strong, predictable steering. Additional strength comes by way of a DT Profab steering box brace that double-shears the pitman arm and ties it to both frame rails.

The tubular links are part of the DT radius arms and provide a means of adjusting the pinion angle and the steering system’s caster geometry. Steve Parks reinforced the bumpstop landing plates with extra plate material and a tube that ties the bumpstop landing plate to the axle housing’s end forging. Strong construction like this means you’ll spend your off-road time driving instead of repairing and wrenching.

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge 2500 4x4
Owner/Hometown: Dave Perkins / Sherman Oaks, California
Engine: Cummins 24-valve inline six
Induction: stock turbo with AEM filter and intake tube, aFe Bladerunner intake manifold
Transmission: 47RE automatic upgraded with Sun Coast “M3GA”-3 kit, triple-disc torque converter, and a TST torque lock controller. Dave credits John at D.P.S. with helping his transmission live long and pull well.
Transfer case/low range ratio: NP241DHD/2.72:1
Front suspension: DT Profab long-arm kit, 5.5-inch lift springs, F-O-A smooth-body shocks and bumpstops, 10 inches of travel
Rear suspension: Atlas medium-rate leaf packs, F-O-A bypass shocks and bumpstops, 12 inches of travel
Ring and Pinion: 3.70:1 (stock ratio)
Differentials: stock open front and rear differentials
Tires: 37x 12.5x16.5 Goodyear MT/R military tires
Wheels: H1 Hummer military beadlocks with Adaptec wheel spacers

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